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Kudos to Kanyakumari

Rajendra Ratnoo

Rajendra Ratnoo, District Collector

Dear Ananthapuri,

Lots of discount sales and shopping melas going on in the city? Done a lot of shopping lately? Walking back home loaded with carry bags full of newly purchased stuff? Stop a while and take a nice long look at that carry bag in your hands. If it’s made of paper or jute, don’t stop, just carry on with whatever you were doing. On the other hand, if it is plastic, ponder a while.

Have any idea where that bag is bound for, once you dump it? It’s headed one of two ways. Either to clog up the earth’s bowels in some landfill or the bowels of a hapless sea turtle that munches on it mistaking the bag for its favorite snack of jellyfish. Either way, it’s on its way to choke up the very life system of the planet. Makes you feel good about yourself, doesn’t it?

You are not done looking. Now, look a little to your south, just beyond Parassala, just across the border. Something major is underway with your neighbours down south; something so revolutionary and inspiring that the whole world could take a leaf out of one small district’s book.

The entire Kanyakumari district, all 1057 rural habitations, 56 Town Panchayats and 4 Municipalities of it have bid goodbye to plastic carry bags and plastic cups. Goodbye? “Good riddance”, I say, to bad rubbish – rubbish of the non biodegradable kind that rightfully ought to be classified as WMD. They have gone one step ahead of the Himachal Pradesh government which heavily fines anyone carrying plastic bags, and have totally banned the vile things.

So how did they manage it? All credit goes to one particular gentleman from Rajasthan – Shri. Rajendra Ratnoo, the District Collector. It was no easy task to have launched a massive 6 month long campaign on a war footing to create awareness and bring about behavioral changes in all stakeholders and aim at an enforcement date of April 1st. The operation which included a virtual media blitzkrieg was so well planned that he could have given any old Roman General a run for his sestertii.

Mr. Ratnoo led by example and it was his family which first gave up the use of plastic bags. He soon converted the entire collectorate staff, district officers, other leaders and opinion makers, and slowly worked down to the grass roots level.

And the result? Take a trip to Kanyakumari and you’ll find that those old fashioned ‘manja sanjis’, and jute bags are suddenly the height of cool again.  No more plastic bags clog up drains and sewage systems to cause stagnant water problems, and the rain water that is harvested enjoys an obstacle free run to wherever it is being pooled.  Buying something that might drip? No worries. Banana leaves and lotus leaves can take care of that problem.  And you will find no more of plastic bags or cups swept over the sands by the wind at the country’s end.

What? You say there are piles of rotting garbage still around? Hold on, our man at the helm of the district is not done yet. He has other plans up his sleeve too. Next project is ‘Zero Garbage Kanyakumari’ and he is gunning for July 1st. It is an operation for waste segregation and decentralized composting wherever possible and a move to stop the pollution of water bodies. Violators are in danger of being prosecuted as criminals.

With Mr.Ratnoo, you know it is not just talk and a lot of hot air. The man will get it done. Come July 1st andKanyakumari district will not only be green, but it will be clean too. And how do people react to this radical change? People are welcoming it quite enthusiastically. Well, at least most of them are. Especially youngsters who have suddenly discovered a man they can actually look up to andbe inspired to follow. Here is a man who actually delivers the goods. One just wishes there were more bureaucrats like him.  Men like him give me hope, that all is well and that the world can be brought back from the brink of disaster where it teeters capriciously now. A hopeful message indeed for World Environment Day on June 5th.
Not surprising that something like this happened here because, the place is also home to another environmentalist, a manwhosesingle minded efforts led to the conversion of a barren hillnearChunkankadai into 40 hectares of lush greenery housing more than 40,000 trees, with the active involvement of hundreds of school and college kids. Now the tiny district, the only 100% literate district in the state ofTamilNadu has another ‘only’ to add to its curriculum vitae as the ‘only’ district in the entire country, probably the world, to totally ban the use of plastic bags and cups. Has the new law in California to ban one time use plastic bags been inspired by the movementinKanyakumari? Has Arnold Terminator been taking notes from RajendraRatnoo?Not bad forKanyakumari district huh? You never thought it was important enough to hold on to. But look at them now. They not only singlehandedly help you stock up the entireChalai market, they also spearhead earth saving crusades. So stop sitting there feeling all superior and calling them names, and go learn something from them!With Lots of Love,

Your Friendly Neighbour,

Read as originally posted in here. 

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